Research Report Adapting Custodial Practices to Reduce Trauma for Incarcerated Women
Evelyn F. McCoy, Mel Langness, Jahnavi Jagannath, Janeen Buck Willison, Janine M. Zweig, Becki Ney, Wayne Choinski
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Without intentionally changing custodial practices to consider women’s histories of victimization and reduce further trauma, correctional facilities will continue to trigger, retraumatize, and harm the women in their custody. This report details how departments of corrections (DOCs) and women’s prisons adapt operational philosophies and custodial practices to reduce trauma and victimization. Most study participants recognized that women have unique needs, pathways to incarceration, and victimization histories that must be considered in policies and practices, and incorporated gender-responsive training into their core staff curricula. Some adapted processes for body searches and discipline, sanctions, and incentives. However, incarcerated women we spoke with indicated that custodial practices are highly dependent on officer discretion and that officers do not always follow protocols. Beyond some accommodations for pregnant people, places struggled to adapt the use of restraints, force, and restrictive housing. Although places overwhelmingly demonstrated that they are trauma informed, they struggle to be trauma responsive, facing challenges in developing and implementing policies and practices to consider trauma in all operational practices and in their correctional culture. Importantly, facilities and DOCs that participated in this study did demonstrate a willingness to improve practices and a need for support and additional resources to do so. This report concludes with recommending ways corrections professionals can take more gender-responsive and trauma-informed approaches to working with women.

Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety
Tags Victims of crime Corrections Women and girls LGBTQ+ equity Sexual violence LGBTQ+ people and criminal justice LGBTQ+ rights and antidiscrimination Mass incarceration Trauma-informed approaches Incarcerated adults Incarcerated women Prisons Incarceration
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center